The number one category of goals for just about everyone seems to be "organization." Here's a great project that can help tidy up the area right next to your trusty sewing machine. We've designed a handy organizer to sit on an easel stand where it can hold a few important items as well as act as a clipboard for instructions or patterns you may need to refer to while sewing. Of course, you could easily adapt it for your home or work office as well. It's always nice to add a bit of softness and color into that hard-edged office environment!
The basic design is similar to a large envelope but we've incorporated two different types of interfacing for the best stability without adding too much stiffness or weight.
The top flap has a tidy angled edge and is snugged into place with the help of self-stick Velcro®. We opted for self-stick rather than sew-in Velcro® for this project in order to a) make the placement much easier, and b) keep the exterior free of stitching lines.
There's a handy pocket panel across the center that can hold glasses, pattern notes, a pen, and more. We divided the panel into three pockets; use our division sizing or customize for your specific tools.
The 11" height is perfect to clip an instructional print out (from Sew4Home of course!). We used a Dritz Getta Grip clip to hold our papers, but a simple binder clip would also work.
There's also a detachable pincushion, because you can never have too many places to stick pins as you pull them from your seams. It's held in place with the same self-stick Velcro®.
Our cheerful fabric came from our Sew4Home stash, and any standard quilting cottons will work. These two fabrics were actually from two different designers (Deb Strain and Joel Dewberry), proving you can mix and match between collections for a unique look. For more information, check out our article: Top 10 Designer Tips for Blending Colors and Prints.
We chose an artist's canvas board for our stiffener. They are easy to find (we picked up an affordable pack at the local craft store), and the shape and thickness was perfect for our design. It's also very rigid without adding much of weight. You could certainly choose another option, such as chipboard, plastic or even a strong cardboard. The main criteria for whatever you choose should be that it can stand up on its own and support the weight of the items clipped to it and/or inserted into the pockets.
Our organizer finishes at approximately 14" wide x 11" high in order to fit a standard 14" x 11" art board.
Sewing Tools You Need
- Sewing Machine and standard presser foot
- Walking or Even Feed foot; optional, but helpful for the thicker layers; you could also engage your machine's built-in fabric feeding system, such as the Janome AcuFeed™ Flex system we love to use on our studio machines
Fabric and Other Supplies
- ½ yard of 44"+ wide standard weight cotton for the main body of the easel
NOTE: This yardage is based on being able to cut your piece horizontally. If you have a directional motif with a strong vertical pattern, you'd want to get a full yard - from which you could easily cut enough for two easels.
- ⅓ yard of a 44"+ wide standard weight cotton for the pocket panel and the pincushion
- ½ yard of 20"+ fusible foam; we used Pellon Flex Foam one-sided fusible foam
- 1 yard of 20"+ wide lightweight fusible interfacing; we used Pellon ShirTailor
- SEVEN sets of ½" - 1" self-stick Velcro® squares; we used ⅞" Velcro® squares
- ONE 11" x 14" canvas art board or similar; we used an artist's canvas panel
NOTE: As noted above, we chose art board because it had the perfect thickness and was very rigid. You could certainly choose another option, such as chipboard, plastic or a strong cardboard. It's important the material be able to stand up on its own and support some weight.
- Scrap of rigid cardboard or similar to stabilize the pincushion; you need just a 2" x 3" piece
- ONE tabletop easel stand; we used a tall metal stand with a wide base, purchased locally - we recommend metal for the best stability but a heavy plastic plate stand would also work
- Small handful of polyester fiberfill for the pincushion
- All purpose thread to match fabrics
- See-through ruler
- Fabric pen or pencil
- Iron and ironing board
- Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
- Seam gauge
- Seam ripper
- Straight pins
- From the fabric for the main body of the easel, cut ONE 15½" x 27¾" rectangle; we fussy cut to nicely center our motif
NOTE: As mentioned above, with a half yard of fabric, you must cut 15½" high x 27¾" wide. However, you will work with the finished cut as a vertical: 15½" wide x 27¾" high. If your fabric has a strong vertical motif, you'll need a full yard in order to cut properly.
- From the fabric for the pocket panel and pincushion, cut the following:
ONE 15½" wide x 10" high rectangle for the pocket panel
ONE 3½" wide x 8" high rectangle for the pincushion
- From the fusible interfacing, cut the following:
ONE 11" x 14½" rectangle for the main panel
ONE 5" x 14½" rectangle for the pocket
ONE 2" x 14½" strip for the top flap
- From the fusible foam, cut ONE 11" x 14½" rectangle.
At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board
- Find the main 15½" x 27¾" exterior panel. Press it flat, removing all wrinkles.
- Find the 2" x 14½" strip of interfacing, the 11" x 14½" rectangle of interfacing, and the 11" x 14½" rectangle of fusible foam.
- Place the exterior panel wrong side up on your ironing surface.
- Place the 2" strip along the top of the panel. It should sit ½" down from the top raw edge of the fabric panel and be centered side-to-side so there is ½" of fabric showing beyond the interfacing at each side.
- Following manufacturer's instructions, fuse this strip in place.
- Place the foam panel in position against the wrong side of the fabric panel. The foam should sit It should sit 4¾" down from the top raw edge of the fabric panel and be centered side-to-side so there is ½" of fabric showing beyond the foam at each side.
- Place a pressing cloth or fabric scrap over the top of foam. Following manufacturer's instructions, fuse in place. We found it was best to press in place for about 10 seconds then move to the next position and press again until the entire rectangle was fused.
- Place the 11" x 14½" rectangle of interfacing in place. It should sit ¼" below the bottom edge of the foam and be centered side-to-side so there is ½" of fabric showing beyond the interfacing at each side. The bottom edge of the interfacing should be ¾" up from the bottom raw edge of the fabric panel. That ¼" of spacing between the two panels is important. It's needed as the gap against which the art board will sit and accommodate a clean fold.
- Following manufacturer's instructions, fuse in place.
- Finally find the pocket panel and the remaining 5" x 14½" interfacing panel. Fold the pocket panel in half, wrong sides together, and press to set a center crease line. Open up the panel, wrong side up, so the crease line is visible. Place the interfacing on the half of the pocket panel that will become the front of the pocket. If you don't have a specific half you've fussy cut to be the front, simply pick one half. The important thing to remember when you place the pocket is that the front of the pocket should have the extra stiffness of the interfacing. Align the top edge of the interfacing with the center crease line on the pocket panel and center the interfacing side to side so there is ½" of fabric showing beyond the interfacing at each side. The bottom edge of the interfacing should be flush with the bottom raw edge of the pocket panel.
- Following manufacturer's instructions, fuse in place.
- There are a lot of measurements on the drawing below, but it should help you visualize the position of all the pieces.
Complete and place the pocket
- Fold the pocket right sides together. Pin along the 14½" raw edges.
- Using a ½" seam allowance, stitch together. The sides remain open.
- Turn the panel right side out through one of the open ends and press flat.
- Find the interfaced main panel. Place it right side up on your work surface.
- Measure 7¾" down from the top raw edge of the main panel. This is the point where the top folded edge of the pocket panel should sit. Pin the pocket in place through all the layers. Remember, the interfaced side of the pocket panel should be facing out.
- Make sure the machine is threaded with thread that best matches the pocket panel in both the top and bobbin. Increase the stitch length. We also engaged the AcuFeed™ Flex feeding system on our Janome machine and recommend you do the same or attach a Walking or Even Feed foot if possible. It will help your seams stay straight and true when stitching through the multiple layers, including the fusible foam.
- Remember, the seamed edge is the bottom edge of the pocket.
- Edgestitch across the bottom of the pocket.
- Draw in your pocket division lines. You can use our division points or create your own to best fit what you'd like your pockets to hold. We drew one line 3¾" in from the left raw side edge to accommodate a pair of glasses, and another line 2½" in from the right raw side edge for a marking pen or pencil.
- Topstitch along each of the drawn lines.
Create the bottom hem and the top flap hem
- Along the bottom edge of the panel, make a simple ¾" double fold hem. To do this, fold up the raw edge ¼" and press, then fold up another ½" and press again. Pin in place.
- If necessary, re-thread the machine with thread to best match the main fabric panel in the top and bobbin. The stitch can stay slightly lengthened.
- Topstitch the bottom hem in place.
- Along the top edge, fold down the raw edge ½" with the fabric wrong sides together. Press in place. We used our Clover Hot Hemmer.
- Flip over the panel and fold down an additional 2" with the fabric right sides together. Press in place.
NOTE: In the photo below, the interfacing strip is missing. As we built our prototype, we tried two different options for when to place this interfacing strip. This shot is from the second option, which we decided was not as easy as the first option that is listed above. So, you should have already fused the interfacing strip in place, as it shows in the photos further below.
- With the wide hem facing up, measure 1½" in from the outer edge along the upper fold. Draw a diagonal line from this point down to outer corner of the bottom fold.
- Pin in place and stitch along this diagonal line at each corner.
- Trim away the excess corner fabric to ¼" from the seam line.
- Turn the flap right side and, gently push out the corner points, and press flat. This creates the "envelope flap" described above.
Fold and seam to finish
- With the top flap and bottom hems in place, fold up the exterior panel so it is right sides together. The bottom hem should align with the top edge of the fused foam interfacing. Pin both sides in place. The flap will extend up beyond the pinned sides.
- Using a ½" seam allowance, stitch both side seams.
- Clip the corners and press open the seam allowances. We also opted to finish our seam allowances with a standard zig zag stitch to prevent raveling.
- Topstitch the 2" pocket flap hem in position along it's bottom edge.
- Turn the easel "bag" right side out, push out the bottom corners, and press flat.
- Insert the art board or similar.
- Along the upper edge of the each side seam fold in the base of the flap so it aligns with the side seam. The side seam itself will actually cause this edge of the flap to want to fold in on itself. Pin in place.
NOTE: We left the art board in place for these tiny seams. If that seems unwieldy, you can certainly remove it at this point and replace when done.
- Make a tiny seam along the diagonal to hold each of these little folds in place.
Create the pincushion
- Find the 3½" x 8" rectangle. Fold it in half so it is now 3½" x 4". Pin along the three raw edges, leaving an approximate 2" opening along the bottom.
- Using a ½" seam allowance, stitch all three sides. Remember to pivot at the corners and to lock your seam at either side of the 2" opening.
- Clip the corners and press open the seam allowances.
- Turn right side out through the opening. Push out all the corners so they are nice and square. Press flat, pressing in the raw edges of the opening so they are flush with the sewn seam.
- From the scrap cardboard or similar, cut ONE 2" x 3" rectangle.
- Insert the cardboard into the pincushion sleeve. The cardboard will become the back of the pincushion.
- Stuff the pincushion sleeve with the polyester filler, inserting it on top of the cardboard until it forms a nice puffy shape.
- Handstitch the opening closed.
Attach the Velcro®
- Put the Velcro® squares together into seven sets. Remove the backing from one side of the five sets for the flap.
- Evenly space the squares across the flap. We placed ours so the top of squares were just ⅛" from the edge of the flap, centering one set at the middel of the flap, one at the top "corner point" at each side of the flap, and the final two in between the middle set and the side set to both the left and the right. Firmly press each set into position.
- Snug the flap closed over the art board to check the placement. You want a tight fit with no wrinkles. Remove the remaining backing strips, moving across the flap one by one, and firmly press the flap in place.
- In the same manner, add two Velcro® squares to the top and bottom on the back of the pincushion.
- Adhere in position at the bottom left corner of the easel board.
NOTE: Velcro® is very strong. Gently peel apart, holding on to each half, if you need to open the flap or remove the pincushion. If you feel you'll be opening and closing your flap often or taking the pincushion on and off, you may want to add a drop of fabric glue behind each half of each Velcro® set.
Project Design: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation and Instructional Outline: Debbie Guild